Has Maxx Crosby filled Las Vegas Raiders' pass-rush gap left by Khalil Mack?

"They don't grow on trees. These defensive ends, they don't grow on trees. I know I've been criticized for trading one of the best, but we're going to look hard to replenish and add players at that position. That's for sure." -- Raiders coach Jon Gruden at the 2019 NFL owners meetings, six months after trading Khalil Mack but two months before drafting Maxx Crosby.

HENDERSON, Nev. -- It has been more than three years since Jon Gruden traded an NFL Defensive Player of the Year on the eve of the 2018 season and only recently, as in this season, have the Las Vegas Raiders seemingly gotten over the pass-rush dearth caused by Mack's departure.

And Maxx Crosby has played a big role in that development.

The ironic piece is Crosby was not selected with any of the picks collected and, in some cases, flipped numerous times, by the Raiders in the Mack trade.

Consider: while the selections of current Raiders such as Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs, cornerback Trayvon Mullen, tight end Foster Moreau, receiver Hunter Renfrow, cornerback Damon Arnette and receiver Bryan Edwards all have their genesis with the Mack trade, Crosby was a straight-forward fourth-round draft pick.

Out of Eastern Michigan.

At No. 106 overall in 2019.

Sometimes, the best trades are the ones you never make, right? (And yes, we realize the Raiders used the No. 4 overall pick on Clelin Ferrell, who has become a rotational player, but that's a different story for a different day.)

Now, this is not to suggest Crosby has replaced Mack in the hearts and minds of a weepy Raider Nation -- let alone those of quarterback Derek Carr, who was in Mack's draft class in 2014 and acknowledged this week he was "heartbroken" over the trade at the time -- or Mack's production in his four years with the Raiders.

Not with the Raiders getting reacquainted with Mack and the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Allegiant Stadium (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS), two years after the Raiders played "host" to and beat the Bears in London. Mack was shut out in sacks that day, mostly by then-right tackle Trent Brown, but the Raiders' current re-shuffled offensive line is giving up sacks at a record-for-Carr rate.

"He's a great player," Crosby said of Mack. "Really talented. He's been doing it at a high level for a long time. So it's awesome to see. But it really doesn't affect me. I'm worried about going against [the Bears'] tackles and guards and things of that nature. But yeah, Khalil Mack is one of those guys you watch and he's a force, for sure."

But when you compare their relative effect on games since Crosby entered the NFL in 2019 and their respective trajectories, well ... Crosby has only gotten better in pass rush win rate (how often a player beats his block within 2.5 seconds) as an edge defender since 2019, while Mack has declined.

The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Mack's rates in that time -- 21.7% in 2019, 19.0% in 2020 and 14.0% thus far this season, which is 35th out of 62 qualifying players.

The 6-5, 255-pound Crosby's rates -- 5.8% in 2019, 13.5% in 2020 and 23.9% this season, 15th in the NFL.

Since 2019, per ESPN Stats & Information, there are 144 players who have had at least 100 pass rushes as an edge defender. Mack's pass rush win rate of 19.8% in that time ranks 25th in the NFL. Crosby (11.8%) is 98th.

And according to Pro Football Focus, Crosby is leading the NFL in pressures with 30 on the season after getting five against the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday. He had 48 total pressures last season. Opposing offensive lines having to account for Yannick Ngakoue on the other end only helps Crosby.

Gruden was alternately pilloried and lampooned in the wake of trading Mack, the 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and then lamenting the lack of quality pass rushers on the Raiders' roster that first year. But it's a game of stats and production, and when it comes to pure sacks, Mack has a slight edge on Crosby since 2019, 21.5-19.

"Not only is he one of the best players living in the world today, he's one of the best people and when that trade happened it broke my heart," Carr said. "I think we are far enough away from it now to where we can talk about it a little bit.

"But we've gotten a lot of good players from that trade and some good teammates, good dudes here. Me loving him and missing him has nothing to do with the guys we have here [now] because I love these guys too. But, again, he's one of my best friends, but I can't wait to see him because I'm not going to stop talking to him the whole game."

The first time Crosby recalls watching Mack play? Crosby was a 16-year-old high school junior in Texas watching on television as Mack, a college senior, was the best player on the field with nine tackles, 2.5 sacks and a 45-yard pick-six for Buffalo against No. 2-ranked Ohio State on Aug. 31, 2013.

"He went off," Crosby said. "He's a baller for sure."

The Raiders then drafted Mack at No. 5 overall in 2014, Carr a round later. Mack, who was holding out in Gruden's first year back with the Raiders, wanting a long-term extension rather than play on his fifth-year option for $13 million, was traded to Chicago on Sept. 1, 2018.

The Bears gave him $90 million guaranteed on his six-year, $141 million extension and Mack helped deliver an NFC North title with 12.5 sacks that year, or half a sack less than the Raiders had as a team.

Which set the stage for Crosby landing with the Raiders after Gruden's lamenting and getting 10 sacks as a rookie.

"Honestly, I don't really pay attention," Crosby said. "I wasn't here when that all happened.

"For me, I show up every single day and try to be the best version of myself. That's all I can do, that's all I can control. I don't want to get too worried about the past, too worried about the future, I Just try to stay in today and be the best player and teammate I can be. That's all I can bring. All the outside noise, I’ll just leave that to y'all and everybody else."